Youngsters get in on the robotics game with elementary tournament
Dozens of elementary students across the Moffat County School District came together on Wednesday in a district-wide robotics competition.
At the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion, robotics coaches hosted the full tournament for the VEX IQ robotics league that consists of Sandrock Elementary, Ridgeview Elementary and Sunset Elementary. Starting the day at 1 p.m. with the skills round of the competition, coaches and teams competed throughout the afternoon and evening to see which teams would move on to the state competition.
The competition, featuring sixteen teams of three students each, narrowed down those teams to two winners who will attend the state competition at the end of the month.
The Next Level, a team from Sunset Elementary, competed in part of the day. Made up of third and fourth graders Avery Jones, Emersynn Webb and Thane Nielson, the team has been building and working with its robot since the beginning of November to prepare for the tournament.
“I like how our team cooperates and takes turns driving,” Nielson said. “And we get to talk to the other team to figure out how to get the most points.”
During the teamwork round, teams were grouped into pairs and competed against another group of teams. Based on certain actions, such as gathering and pushing balls into certain buckets, there are a certain amount of points that can be scored. Webb said that, to her, the hardest part of putting their robot, Willy, together was attaching the wires where they needed to go. Willy, The Next Level team members said, was named after ‘Free Willy.’
Ty Kuberry, a Project Lead the Way teacher at Sandrock, said that teams started putting together their robots in the later part of fall semester and practiced often. He added that, because the school district has its own league now, students do not have to travel very far to qualify for state competitions.
“I remember when my son was in third grade, that was the first year that we started (robotics),” Kuberry said. “His team didn’t make it. My daughter’s team did make it, though, and he was excited for them. But that was his goal over the next three years, and it’s cool to see students improve like that.”
Judges also gave out a Design Award and an Excellence Award to teams that also did well at the competition. Those winners could end up with spots at the state competition, if there are any open spots that come up before Feb. 26.
The elementary school level of robotics is part of a larger effort to teach STEM to students across the district. Because robotics is now at the elementary, middle and high school levels, students can begin in Vex IQ in third grade and move up the system until their senior year.
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